Searching Out Lesser Known Connections in Northern Illinois
When the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth approached, people all over Illinois were hungry to learn more about the sixteenth President.
In Springfield and New Salem, whole museums document Lincoln’s life and you can’t walk a block in any direction without seeing his face.
Lincoln’s presence in northern Illinois is much less evident, but with nearly three-quarters of the state’s population living there, folks want to know “hey! – did Lincoln ever hang out in my hometown?”
It turns out there are plenty of Lincoln connections throughout Illinois beyond what most history books tell you. Every local historical society seems to boast a long-cherished Lincoln tale. In modern times experts have debunked many of these old stories, but other connections are quite true.
Author Kate Gingold followed very convoluted paths to arrive at some of the Lincoln connections she describes in Six Degrees of Abraham Lincoln.
Why "Six Degrees?" Also known as the “Human Web,” the Six Degrees of Separation theory proposes that every human being is connected to any other human being by no more than six steps. Wikipedia has a nice explanation with a colorful graph if you want to know more about how this works. Visit Wikipedia : Six Degrees.
Since the theory was popularized in the 1920’s, there’s been a Six Degrees play, a Six Degrees movie, and a Six Degrees television show which was produced by J.J. Abrahms of Lost fame. Not to mention the popular parlor game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” in which players try to connect any random actor to Kevin Bacon within six movies.
The Human Web, 2009’s interest in anything Lincoln, and a dose of healthy home-town pride have led many Illinois communities to wonder where their town fits into The Six Degrees of Abraham Lincoln.
As a local historian, they've come to Kate for the answers, and she doesn't dissapoint. Six Degrees of Abraham Lincoln tells some interesting tales of Lincoln and his family as they are related to towns around Chicagoland.
These stories are not the same stories we learned in school. Did you know Lincoln was involved in a duel? These stories also have ties to present day people. Here's an example:
Lincoln's wife Mary was committed to a sanitarium in Batavia. That building is still standing. At the time of Lincoln's 200th birthday, it was owned by a dentist from Naperville. That dentist graduated from Knox College, the last remaining site of the Lincoln/Douglas debates.
See how these connections can be made? There's many more interesting, fun facts in the book. Duels, angry mobs, speaking with spirits, and yes, Kevin Bacon, are all in the pages of this delightful book.
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Learn More About Kate Gingold